Operating Department Practice student Lauren discusses her experiences out on anaesthetics placement.
As a student ODP, I spend most of my time on placement. I have been in Anaesthetics since January, and will be there until the beginning of May.
The anaesthetic room is where patients come to receive their anaesthetic before they are taken through to the operating theatre for their operation.
Different types of anaesthetic
When people hear the word anaesthetic, they assume we mean a general anaesthetic – ‘put to sleep’ – but in fact, there are lots of different types of anaesthetic that don't involve being put to sleep, or that can be given as well as going to sleep.
For example, if a patient is going to be having surgery on their arm, an injection of local anaesthetic can be given into their armpit around the nerves. This is known as a brachial plexus block and will numb the entire arm.
The patient will be fully awake and alert whilst they have their surgery, but can have sedation as well, or the block can be given for pain relief and the anaesthetist will then drift the patient off to sleep after the block has been given.
Another type is called spinal anaesthesia, involving an injection into the back which numbs the patient from the abdomen downwards.
Again, the patient can be fully awake e.g. during a caesarean section for the birth of a baby, or they might be given a general anaesthetic as well, depending on their circumstances.
A typical morning
My day in anaesthetics starts at around 7.30am. I go into my anaesthetic room with my mentor and begin by performing the safety checks on the anaesthetic machine before it can be used. I then go inside the theatre and perform the same checks on the anaesthetic machine in there.
Once the machines have passed their checks, I then check through my airway trolley, ensuring I have all the correct airway equipment (including for an emergency).
The anaesthetist will then arrive, having visited the patients on the list, and will inform us of what type of anaesthetic they will be having, any concerns they may have about the patient, and what airway they will need (if having a general anaesthetic).
The anaesthetic team and surgical scrub team then have what's called a 'team brief', where they decide between them what order the patients will go in, and discuss any concerns they have about the patient.
They will discuss things such as: what they plan to do during surgery; what the planned anaesthetic type is; if the patient has any allergies or medical problems; how much blood loss is expected; and what the plan is for the patient post-surgery.
Jumping into action
Each day an ODP carries the bleep (pager) for Resus and will not be based in a theatre. Resus is an area in the A&E department where critically ill patients are taken.
We can be called to major traumas, strokes and cardiac arrests that happen all over the hospital, not just in A&E.
I have really enjoyed being in anaesthetics – every day is different, and I have really been made to feel like part of the team.
Lauren studies Operating Department Practice at ARU in Chelmsford. Find out more about this and other degree courses at one of our Open Days.